Los Angeles

LA, California Leaders Team Up to Crack Down on Hit-and-Run Crashes

The city’s annual 20,000 hit-and-run crashes make up nearly half of all accidents in the city, the highest proportion in the nation, officials say

Los Angeles and California officials are teaming up to crack down on what some have called an "epidemic" of hit-and-run crashes.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and State Assemblyman Mike Gatto joined other leaders at LA City Hall Wednesday to announce support of two bills that aim to stem the tide of hit-and-run incidents in the state.

One piece of legislation, AB 47, would create a "Yellow Alert" system, similar to Amber Alerts, that would announce information about hit-and-run suspects to the public and law enforcement officials.

"If I'm going to lose a leg over something like this … I'm going to take the subject down," said Damian Kevitt, a victim of a hit and run.

The idea is similar to the Medina Alert system implemented earlier this year in Colorado. Named after Jose Medina, a 21-year-old Denver valet worker who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2011, the system broadcasts vehicle or driver information to the public using electronic signs.

"The public is almost always needed to catch those who leave fellow citizens dying on the side of the road, and AB 47 will allow us to do so promptly, before the perpetrator can get away and cover up the evidence," Gatto said in a statement.

The other bill, AB 1532, would increase misdemeanor penalties of a hit-and-run crash to include immediate suspension of the driver’s licence for six months, a $1000 fine, and six months in jail.

Both pieces of legislation are scheduled to be heard by the Senate Committee on Appropriations in August.

According to LA City Councilman Mitchell Englander, the city’s annual 20,000 hit-and-run crashes make up 48 percent of total accidents in the city, the highest proportion in the nation.

These statistics have led to moves locally to address the issue of hit-and-runs.

"This is one of the most cowardly types of crimes you can commit," Englander said. "It’s not an accident ... you made a conscious decision to flee and that’s a crime."

In May, the City Council approved Englander’s motion to ask the Los Angeles Police Department to explore the idea of creating a local alert system that might be implemented earlier than a state-wide program.

The LAPD has since been charged with looking at the feasibility of using already existing tools, like community notification service Nixle, to alert the public about hit-and-run drivers.

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